Riina enthusiastically agreed, adding: “This Pope is a good guy, he’s really great.”
Since his election, Pope Francis has won plaudits for his fresh approach and down-to-earth message and now has more than 11 million followers on Twitter, but even he might be surprised to be so well regarded by mafia godfathers.
The praise for the Pope, who was elected last March by his fellow cardinals, was the only positive remark made by Riina, who is serving life in jail.
In other conversations wiretapped by police, he made threats against anti-mafia prosecutors and gloated over murders carried out by Cosa Nostra in the past.
Riina threatened to launch attacks against judges that would make them “dance the samba” – an apparent reference to Cosa Nostra’s past tactic of blowing up prosecutors with massive car bombs.
He said judges in an ongoing trial investigating links between organised crime and the Italian state in the 1990s were driving him “crazy” and made specific threats against Nino di Matteo, a prosecutor, saying “let’s organise this thing, let’s make it really big”.
Riina gloated over the murder, in a car bombing, of a prosecuting magistrate in 1983, remembering that he had watched the bomb explode from afar.
“I messed him up good”, the mobster said.
Riina is held in a maximum-security prison in Milan for a string of crimes, including the murder of anti-mafia investigators Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino in the 1990s.